slight detour to Hong Kong

Joshua Wong, one of the unexpected leaders of the Umbrella Movement

After ENO’s selection of directors, I chose to work for Jodi. I really love her style, and I’m really happy to be working with such a talented lady!

However, things didn’t initially go as planned..

When we presented the storyboard to Chris and Natasha, their review was quite negative and filled with criticism. Their suggestion: go back and rethink the whole thing.

This came as a shock to us since we had no idea what were the reasons they picked the film proposals they did. But after that meeting, it became pretty obvious that they had chosen Jodi for her lovely visual style – not for her story.

We had to go back to the drawing board and help Jodi developing a new storyline that would please Chris and Natasha..

So we had a brainstorm, developed 2 different storylines and sent them for feedback(/Chris and Natasha to pick their favourite). The first version was a very literal narrative about Gandhi’s life and the second version wanted to draw a parallelism between Gandhi’s movement and subsequent civil disobedience movements, like the Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution. This second option was particularly interesting since Jodi is a Hong Kong citizen and is watching her state lose the democratic rights it had while it was colonised by the British.

Personally, I find the idea of recounting a story that has been told so many times (read Gandhi’s story) – and that focuses on something that happened years and years ago – to be as boring as it is conservative.

I understand that maybe the youth doesn’t know Gandhi’s story that well (if that is even the target audience we’re doing these films for..), and I also understand the importance of looking into the past to act for the future. However, it feels to me that looking into the present and referring to the past as an inspiration, would serve as a much inspirational piece for social action on whatever issue we need/should be working on. Especially in the umbrella revolution situation, where its leaders are in jail – just like Gandhi was in jail. This storyline could’ve provided a little beam of hope to the Hong Kong situation, since Gandhi’s perseverance – as much as Joshua Wong’s – produced the needed social changes.

As expected, this was Chris and Natasha’s least preferred version so we ploughed through with Gandhi’s story for the animation. Nevertheless, I did some research on the Hong Kong Situation which I had no idea it was this bad.

I find the UK’s ‘loving’ political behaviour towards China shameful, considering the world knows they are not following the agreement to preserve HK’s democracy. Anyway… Here’s some of the articles I read and a really nice doc (available on netflix) about Joshua Wong.

dolce fare niente

It’s been a month since the holidays started and I am not sure where the time went or what I’ve been doing with it.

I’ve started doing some ‘light’ research for my final project and bought a book on feminism and veganism:

So far so good. These are two of the issues I feel most strongly about but I never really tried to connect them. This book first came out in 1990 (going on 27 years now) but still feels so very contemporary that it’s mind boggling. It is quite comforting to know there are obviously a heck lot more people out there that might have the same thoughts on the world that I do. I am really enjoying reading it and will hopefully be able to write on/about my thoughts after finishing.

I have also heard Phillip Glass’ Satyagraha from start to finish. When Chris and Natasha from ENO came to introduce the 3 operas I immediately felt drawn to this one. I have some ideas on it but need to do some research before disclosing them. Let’s just say I am thinking about mandalas, the visuals and colours of Indian mythology probably merged with actuality issues.

Today I’m going to try and get closer to finish the Dealbreakers project that I haven’t touched since Easter!

everyday is like sunday

I’ve been meaning to write for a while now, but haven’t been properly free ever since the Easter break started. At the moment I’m on a train from Birmingham to London so I thought I’d unleash my brain and let my fingers throw up some thoughts in here. Hold on tight, it’s probably going to be a rough ride
(not my train ride, just you reading this post).

I’ve spent the first week of holidays in Lisbon trying not to think about the masters, freelance life, money, time.. Let’s just say it’s not easy not to think about the uni workload you’re trying to leave behind when you go on holidays and end up spending a lot of the time closed in a cinema watching animation*. Sigh.

This post might feel a bit whiny, which is unfortunately a rather accurate depiction of how I’ve been feeling.. I don’t really know what’s going on, but ever since I finished all my projects to deliver for assessment in February my head hasn’t been in the right place. I think I pushed myself really hard on these first 2 terms and haven’t had this rhythm of life in a long time. The last time I remember feeling this busy and tireless was in 2008. So 9 years passed, and suddenly I’m assuming I should have the same stamina: it’s bonkers. I don’t think I can sustain this pace for such long periods of time. At least not without a proper break – which unfortunately won’t be happening this time.

It’s not like I felt tired before the hand in, and I managed to deliver everything on time(!).. but once I handed in it’s like all my strength left me and I can’t even think of work anymore. And I have so much to do, I can’t really afford to stop.

I’ve finally finished my second lip sync animation yesterday. The idea is to join it together with the rest of the class’s ones. We’ll make a video out of them to hopefully send to festivals. (I can’t show it now because some festivals don’t allow it to be online before they screen it – sorry.) Considering I’m the one organising this project I felt a bit ashamed I was so late with my contribution, this ended up delaying the editing and therefore the finalising of this project.

Lately it feels I’ve bitten more than I could chew. My perfectionist side is pulling me down instead of helping me out. We’re now on our third week of “holidays” and I haven’t started the actual work we need to have done before the beginning of uni. I’m starting to get proper anxious with what needs to be done – which, if I stop to think, I know is utterly irrational. So here goes a list of things I’m involved in + need/wish to do, with the hope that writing down what needs to be done will help me reduce my anxiety:

  • 2000 words essay on documentary animation as a social medium which I haven’t even started thinking about and will only be able to start this Friday.
  • Storyboard for our first movie (aaah!! so exciting/nerve wrecking! Like the essay mentioned above this isn’t even on an embryo stage)
  • Edit our lipsyncs together + credits + subtitles: will happen this Saturday with Helena and Lisa – we’ll hopefully start and finish then, but I’m saying this with a very wishful tone because to be honest I already know we wont be able to finish it all in one day. Oh man..
  • Start an Instagram account for our class
  • Do some gifs for our insta account (I think we might need to rethink this, and that’s pissing me off so much – I really want to have it all, argh!)
  • Email and meet Margaux to talk about my storyboard. She’s working on a great project at the moment and has her hands full. I really wanted to help her out, but I’m starting to think I won’t be able to and that’s making me really sad. I mean what’s the point in having such a great mentor if I can’t get to learn/work with her as much as I can?! Bah L
  • I wanted to learn C4D and maybe use some flash to practice during the break but right now this is the first thing to go out the window priority wise.

Realistically speaking I know I’ll be fine, I just need to put my head down and work. But I’m having all these feels and they’re really hard to control. There’s so much I want to do – and do well – that it sometimes feels really overwhelming. Then add to that the pressure of living in London without any kind of financial help and it just deflates me. I wish I wouldn’t need all this freelance work I’ve been doing, but I can’t be here without it. So instead of being in the library, or helping Margaux out, or out and about with my lovely classmates checking galleries, I’m sitting in a train back to London because I got to pay my bills. And I’m not even going to start talking about my inexistent social life, I have a lot of friends probably hating me right now.

I honestly just want to feel less stressed about life in general and be able to keep on my happy-busy-bee mode. But at the moment I’m just staring at this huge mountain of things I need to get done and feeling really exhausted and small.

I’m guessing the trick is not to think too much about the things that feel overwhelming. Hopefully I’ll start getting excited about the projects I need to deliver, but right now everything’s so scary and overwhelming.

So here you go, a very personal moan-y post on what it’s like to be 29 and betting on a career change via education. I’m at a low point right now, where I’m questioning my abilities and thinking I should be doing so much better/more.

Maybe I’m just missing all my girls (and boys!) and the environment we have in our class, we are definitely a great team and we push ourselves to do better.

Anyway, as a positive point, and because I really need to feel more centred, I decided to spend (all) my (extra) money in yoga classes. That at least feels good and hopefully will make me de-stress in the long run. Here’s to hoping I can find the time to maintain a regular practice until the end of school year.

Congratulations if you’ve managed to read all of this. I’ll be back soon! (hopefully so will you!)


*post on Monstra coming soon. I hope!

works in progress

Usually, I write when I have finished projects to show. But lately, we’ve been working on a couple of projects that won’t get done in a week.. So I thought I might as well start documenting progress, hoping that sitting down on a Sunday night to think about what I’ve been doing will help out organising/planning the week ahead. Here we go!

Right now I have 4 pending projects in hands: the animal gallop, the body acting project, the green screen exercise and a creature’s character sheet.

GALLOPteeth2
I’ve drawn these octopus-y looking teeth, but the exercise was to show our understanding about animal joints+movement so..cheetah
I’ve made a cheetah, shown it to Steve and got feedback that it’s looking way too stretchy. That was kind of my point but in the end, I don’t really want it to look awkward so went home and amended it. Unfortunately, I never saw Steve again so I’m waiting for tomorrow to get more feedback and hopefully finish it off with colour!cheetah2
Can you spot the differences? ;p

BODY ACTINGbackground2
This Monday we started a project on (human) body movement. The brief is to make a character react to different stimulus – ideally coming from a screen.

I spent the day trying to figure out a plot for my exercise.. Then I went home and spent the whole night drawing this background. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to use it, it was more to try out some stuff we’d learnt the previous week on photoshop. And when I spent Tuesday night finishing it, it just felt like a waste not to use it!


Regarding a plot, I went full narcissistic and decided to make a character inspired in me. She comes into the living room all happy, turns on the tv, reacts to news on tv, gets really depressed and throws herself on the floor. I’m not sure this is enough of a mood change, but will most certainly know tomorrow after showing the keys to Steve.

GREEN SCREEN
animaticI made a quick animatic of how I’m imagining my creature to be/react.

monstahI also have made a mask for the footage we filmed and am now working on the background (watercolour!). Hopefully will be able to get all the background bits done by tomorrow night so I can start compositing them in class Tuesday.

CHARACTER SHEET
And the 4th thing I should be doing and haven’t even touched is a creature character sheet. I don’t know what to do about that yet. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to use the greyhound, but am still trying to decide between the cheetah or that blobby creature for the green screen project (which I am not too sure would be complex enough to work..). And now that I’m thinking about it, there’s this little square dog that I’ve drawn on the character development workshop with Rory that I’d love to draw more of.. Not sure I can do that so I’ll ask around tomorrow.

Monday tomorrow. uff

JONI

One of the assignments we had to deliver yesterday was to develop a character and present it/him/her in a character sheet. Since we are doing a counter culture walk cycle animation for the Royal Albert Hall, we were suggested to develop and present that character.

I have to admit this was probably the brief I’ve felt less comfortable working for since we’ve started the MA. The major reason is I am still not comfortable with my drawing skills (or lack of them)/drawing style. And also, because I have been feeling that I’m unconsciously being dragged into a very digital cartoony aesthetic. Which by no means I think it’s wrong, it’s just something that I am not yet ready to commit to (omg, soppy! I’ve definitely been watching too many first dates episodes).

The truth is I’ve enrolled in this masters hoping to find my ‘voice’ aesthetically speaking, but time seems to just seep through my fingers and it’s hard to think about aesthetics and movement simultaneously.

This is something I’ve talked about with my amazing mentor when we met, and she advised me to separate the animation and my journey finding ‘my style’ at least in this first year. To just explore as much as I could aesthetically on quicker projects, illustrations and drawings; and to focus on getting things moving right when it comes to the animation assignments.

I could go on forever talking about her and how lucky I am to have her as a mentor (this would quickly escalate to a very cheesy and probably very boring post!), but she did give me great advice and I feel like it had a big influence in this project.

On Margaux’s (my mentor) advice, I went (and managed to drag Helena) to V&A to get inspiration. There’s an exhibition about the 60’s counter culture/revolution happening and it was just great for immersing myself in that period. The range of subjects that were affected during the 60s/70s was vast. The exhibition savvily finished with John Lennon’s Imagine, leaving Helena and I longing for a similar movement to happen right now.
Oh world, what’s happening to us?

Still! It was both inspiring and mind-opening to see the exhibition, and just when we were leaving, at the V&A shop, I saw this amazing cover for Joni Mitchell’s big yellow taxi 7inch single (read with holly sound):

I mean, it was a sign for me! Everything clicked! You might remember, I had already researched Joni Mitchell, and was pending to develop a character homaging her because she sings about the environment on this specific song! I was so attracted to the simplicity of the line drawing I immediately felt the urge to explore this kind of aesthetic.

Another advice Margaux gave me – so I could have time to experiment with different materials – was to use this walking cycle as an experiment. Get the movement working right on TVPaint, then print the frames and trace them with different materials. I had a mind explosion when she said that! I could imagine how mental/interesting the final result would be, so it was a no-brainer deciding to go for that!

Because I had that intention even before I decided on how my character would look, it just felt right to use a simple line drawing and somehow add colour/texture. So it all came together, and JONI was born (I couldn’t think of any other name, and I mean it’s Joni so..!).

character-design_del16501682details1
character-design_del165016822character-design_del165016823

I am well excited to make her move!
Along with a couple more projects for uni.. I think I’ll be pretty busy these holidays..
(oh.. so many mixed feelings about this)

late for the party, but i brought a killer rainbow

Literally.

Oh hi! It’s been a while I know! So long I didn’t get to round up week #6 nor #7 so here’s an update of what’s been happening for the last couple of weeks in my life, aka uni work I’ve been doing.

Apparently deciding to take a week ‘off’ for my birthday was not a good idea. By the Tuesday of week #6 it suddenly dawned on me that we only had 4 weeks until assessment time and that gave me cold cold sweats.

I had done the weight lift exercise using a puppet, but we are being marked on that specific exercise and I felt I should do it in 2D as well. Mainly because although I am satisfied with my puppet animation, I thought I could do better than that, and also I should practice as much as I could because how am I going to get better otherwise?!

Oh and practice I did…
ok, maybe not as aggressively but I swear it was hard times

Anyway, I went ambitious level +100 with it and have been closed at home for the last two weeks working on my lift. Good news is that it’s done, the bad news is that I am still a week’s worth of work behind.. oh well, let’s focus on the positives for now shall we?

I don’t really know how I got the idea for my lift, I started by drawing a cutesy little fat unicorn, which was followed by a girl.. And then I got bored of all the cuteness and decided there had to be a twist to the plot. Unicorns don’t exist, the girl and the unicorn could never have lived happily ever after! Anyway you’ll see what I mean when we get there (if you haven’t already skipped this whole blabber and just watch the videos already).

I’m finding that for animations to work smoothly you need a lot of movement references. I am not going to share footage of my ridiculous acting, but it exists and it sure helped a LOT. The unicorn doesn’t really move that much but he jumps so I got lost in youtube watching videos of horses jumping in slow motion. Thank you youtube. And then I used One punch man for an impact reference/more of an anxiety relief (although I kind of ended up doing my own version of an impact).

Ok let’s just get to it! Here’s my FINAL draft:


and by final draft I mean I have done versions and versions of this animation, I don’t really want to deal with a unicorn anytime soon. It was hard work to get the movement flowing to an acceptable standard.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-00-08-03 as you can see, it was a process..

Mid way this draft mess, I showed the work in progress to Steve, he wisely told me to simplify it. Which I kind of did.. But I was already in too deep to go back/let it go. Oh so stubborn.

Anyway you can’t really (I think!) present a draft-y looking animation on your assessment, so I then went to clean it up.


Honestly, I’m with Helena when she says she feels her animation lacks character. I feel the same about mine, I think cleaning it up made it lose a lot of the personality so (in the future) I might need to rethink either my way of drafting or cleaning up.

I had done the clean version yesterday (pyjama Sunday), and showed it to Steve today. I managed to make him laugh but he then said the sizes were not consistent, and that in the end she was too big. He told me not to worry about it and just move on. But inside I was like
and then got home to finish it (I needed to add the rainbow smears at least!) and got like
so I quickly tried to amend it, and here’s the final result. That I-won’t-touch-anymore-because-I-have-other-stuff-to-do-and-nothing-is-ever-perfect-and-I’ve-tried-my-best (this on repeat until I’m convinced).

To sum it all up once and for all (I really need to move on to other assignments!). Although a hard test to my patience and perseverance, I have tried to apply everything we’ve learned so far in this exercise. Follow through, smears, squashes, anticipation – you name it! It was great practice, and although I might have gotten lost oh so many times(!), my stubbornness to keep on doing it paid off (I think!). At least it’s done and I can move on. I’ve learnt a lot about the process of animating and how it works best for me. I’m probably going to start listening more to Steve, but then again if you don’t do it you’ll never learn. 🙂
It’s not like I think it’s a perfect piece of animation, I’d love to have the time to properly colour it and beautify it but I think it’s ok, and I’m pretty happy with it. It was just a very slow and enduring process and that makes it harder for me to be all hyped about it. Right now I just want to sleep!

Which is what I am going to do!

I’ll come back soon, I promise 🙂
(“please don’t!” – you beg)

Short Sighted

This Saturday I spent the whole day enclosed in a theatre watching a series of talks about how the universe of short films works.

Although some of the talks might have not been too enlightening for me, most of the day was quite useful. And overall it felt like a good introduction to what we should do when we find ourselves with a short movie in hands and want to get it seen by people.

So here’s some key learnings from that day:

Jordan McGarry on what makes a short movie successful/good and other advice on publishing a short online
– Your short film should tell people who you are, and a good short film makes people feel something
– Challenge the audience in a way that speaks to people like the other stuff doesn’t
– Make sure your film is as tight as it can be. Always try and give it a bit of a haircut on the final edit. Being shorter doesn’t hurt (this is actually something that she champions for, since on her current role at Film London she changed the maximum duration for accepting a short from 15 to 10 mins)
– Do the media/festivals planning before your film launches
– Send the film a bit before going public online to the press, in order to create momentum/buzz around it
– You can’t really upload a video and hope that it goes viral, find communities online that would relate strongly to your film to publicise it
– Launching a film online is easier if you have a festival laurel, and don’t put too many laurels on your film! Pick the important ones
– Regarding how vimeo works, when uploading a film you should have a strong thumbnail, a description that is on point and always credit everyone that’s worked on your film (and has a vimeo account) on it. The followers of the people that are credited on your film will see it on their feed as well. In order to get ‘staff picked’ you can email vimeo staff, but if your video has 30 likes in 24 hours, that’s enough for the staff to (eventually) watch it. So make as much noise on your social network as possible and ‘bribe’ people to go and like it!

Katie Metcalfe, Anna Bogutskaya and Johanna Brooks on shorts and festivals
– Get your film seen, forget about THE one festival (as in just sending your movie to big festivals)
– Don’t send a trailer to a programmer, they spend enough time watching films to have patience to watch trailers – just send the whole film
– Submit your film as early as you can to a festival as many of them have early bird fees
– You can always try to email film festival directors asking them for a free waiver, depending on the festival some might say yes
– There are festivals that accept ‘old work’, but usually a film in the festival circuit needs to be younger that 18 months up to 2 years
– Do your research! Make a festival list/spreadsheet with the festivals you want to submit your film to, and make sure your film is appropriate to those festivals.
– Check festival lists that allow for your movie to live on the internet and still be screened. At the current age, around two thirds of the festivals accept that
– Some festivals (at least Sundance) organise industry screenings for films they loved but didn’t make the cut to the festival for program reasons
– Once you get picked for a festival, online market the hell out of your film, create momentum about the screening
– Talk to as many people as possible in a festival, since a lot of work opportunities flourish from there
– Take business cards, postcards and posters to advertise the screening of your film

In the end of the day, we were shown some of the most successful British shorts of this year, and this one just really stood out for me. I’m guessing it is still going around the festival circuit, hence why there is only a trailer of it online!

Hope this was useful y’all! 🙂

William Kentridge @ Whitechapel Gallery

Went to Whitechapel gallery today to check William Kentridge’s exhibition, since EVERYONE I’ve heard talking about it said it was great. Well, I agree, it is really good!

From an animation perspective, it’s great to see the way he doesn’t limit himself to the flatness of a screen. A lot of the installations there were incredibly immersive due to their physical, three dimensional, expression. On top of that, Kentridge’s way of combining animation with live action footage was inspiring, and it is always good to be reminded that we can (maybe even should?) explore a lot more than just a character, or the ‘traditional’ drawing aesthetics(3D included here), in an animation piece.

Although not one of the works that used physical media combined with a projection, this was probably my favourite work displayed in the exhibition. I just loved the idea of using a book as the starting point for an animation, in a way a book can tell you a story just like moving image can.
I’m sorry in advance for the bad recording, but this was the only video I could find of it!

when busy gets busiER

I survided week #4, but barely!
There was so much going on this week for me, I’m not sure how I managed, but I’m also not too happy. I just managed, didn’t excel (in my very critical mind, that is. I keep reminding myself that I have actually accomplished A LOT, but my brain likes to tell me it’s never enough). Anyway, done and dusted (!), here’s what I’ve been up to these last 7 days…

This Monday our job got a bit bigger than a ‘bouncy’ loop consisting of a dozen of frames.. Which was a good reminder (even maybe a gentle* reality slap..) that animation is effing hard work! Apart from consolidating some learnt concepts like the follow through, overlapping action and anticipation, we heard about smearing for the first time! Our task was to apply all of these techniques in a ‘jump, bounce and dive’ exercise.

I present you: the suicidal carrot!


although this looks simple it took 40 drawings to make. It was the first time I felt my patience being tested, but you just need to be very British and ‘keep calm and carry on’. Fortunately I managed to make it work (in my eyes!! Let’s just wait to see what Steve says tomorrow..) at the first try. There were some issues with the first jump of the carrot: size and movement, but I wasn’t too fussed because I wanted to redo it in TV Paint anyway..

So, along with those 40 drawings that I only started in the afternoon, I had a great conversation in the morning with Pedro Serrazina, about Portuguese animation.

I had to do a presentation on Wednesday about animation from my country, that happens to be Portugal, and although already a bit too late for the presentation, this talk was really useful. He gave me loads of references and names to research. I am hoping to finish writing an extended post on the subject in a very near future – watch this space/COMING SOON!

This week we’ve also had our first ‘monthly screening night’ on TuesdayOCTOBER
I think it was a success! We’re definitely repeating it next month (which happens to start next week – seriously 2016 you’re going a bit too fast!). If interested, you can see the shorts we screened here!

This week just whizzed through! I’ve had the usual 3 days of classes, organised a screening, did a presentation, freelanced on Wednesday night, worked 9 to 5 Thursday and Friday, 5 to midnight Saturday, catsitted Friday to Sunday and managed to waste my Friday evening redoing my suicidal carrot on TV Paint.


But even so, I had time to stress about my level of drawing (dear brain) and on Thursday the life drawing class felt like psychological torture. I ended up leaving early, I guess there’s some days you know you just can’t win.. And I am actually still stressing about my drawings**, but I guess I just need to ‘stay calm and carry on’ drawing and watching Prokopenko’s tutorials.

Oh Monday, you’re too near!


* I’m saying gentle because I’m foreseeing these reality slaps becoming more and more frequent, and stronger and stronger. I think we’re probably going for a big reality punch..!

** Along with not having read anything I was supposed to for my big post on Portuguese animation 🙁

heads or tails?

Mondays are becoming my favourite day of the week.*
Week #3 in the fantastic world of animation taught us the power of a good follow-through.

We’ve started by doing a basic shape to get the gist of it. Just a ball and a line, following through like a tail..

And then Steve challenged us to go wild with the ‘tails’.
Challenge a c c e p t e d!

I started thinking about the most random things I could draw.
Yup..

But it was still noon and I had already finished the tampon… Gotta keep busy! Yay kangaroos!

This was not immediate, but by re-watching it (and parents’ feedback – thank you!), it became obvious something was a bit off with Taylor the kangaroo.. It took me a while to realise the head was tilting up and down way too much. They barely move their head when running. That’s also probably why she lost a bit the kangaroo identity and seemed like some other animal. Not sure which.

I went to make sure I was right about the head not moving, before I’d spend a precious couple of weekend hours redrawing it, just to get it wrong – A G A I N . No thanks!
Hello youtube, have I told you lately that I love you?

Here’s the redrawn Taylor:

But anyway, going back to Monday… Kangaroo didn’t take long either. The diving giraffes passed through my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking about those long necks…

So..

There’s something about watching your movies over and over again that allows you to understand something’s not quite right.
This time, Geoffrey’s head movement is not fluid, but I couldn’t figure how to solve the problem. His neck also grows quite A LOT during the loop.

Isn’t it ironic? This week we’ve learnt about tales, and my problem ended up being with heads.. Live and learn.

Anyway, back to Monday (again!).. I had spent the whole day wanting to make that little tampon splash some blood.. because.. why not?!
(also, Hi TVPaint! I like you, let’s be friends!)

Hey week #4! 🙂


* And I’m just not ready to say ‘are’ with no ‘becoming’ because I have never in my life said anything good about Mondays. Ever. It’s a process..